Thursday, December 30, 2010

5 years into "Happily Ever After"

Fourteen years ago I sat in 8th grade Algebra with this shy guy whom I never talked to. Eleven years ago, as a Junior in high school, I became good friends with him in French class. Ten years ago, I began trying to find a girl for him because he was "just such a great guy." Seven years ago, I began hoping maybe I could be that girl. Five years ago today, I married him. Matt and I celebrate our 5th anniversary today and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for this man. I figured that when I went to a ministry minded college, I'd find someone there that I would connect with and marry. I was SHOCKED when God had other plans and led me right back to my hometown to a guy that I'd known for years. NOT what I had planned, but I'm so glad that it's what HE planned. There were a lot of things that I knew and didn't know about Matt when I married him 5 years ago. I did know that we connected in so many ways. Yes, we're normal and we argue. I'm not sure if God could have put two more stubborn people together, but fortunately for us, we see eye to eye on so many issues, that our arguments usually end up being about stupid things. A recent example is during our Christmas decorating we had a knock down, drag out about which topper would go on the tree (angel- his preference or star- mine) and where exactly the nativity and Christmas houses should go. Life changing decisions, people. In the end, we got over it peacefully and moved on. Although I don't like that we disagree at all, I'm thankful that it's over things like that and not how to raise our children, spend our money or issues of our faith. He is truly, 100% my best friend in the whole world and I don't know what I'd do without him. I also knew that he was a godly man. I like almost everyone, but there are few people that I connect with on a deeper, more satisfying level. I am so thankful that my husband is one of those people. He challenges me and encourages me. When I'm wondering about something from Scripture, he can often give me an answer off the top of his head. While I was in college reading theology as my textbooks, he would borrow them and read them so that we could talk about them. The main difference now: He's a genius and can remember many details from those books we read and all of that has become painfully fuzzy for me. He's my walking biblical reference who not only KNOWS his stuff, but puts it into practice. I knew that he was good with money. People kid that he's tight, but I am SO thankful that he's a "budgeter." He has kept us on track financially and made what he brings home enough to provide comfortably for his family so that I can stay home with the boys. And honestly, though he rarely spends money on a whim, he is very generous and I get to see first hand his heart and priorities as his master-mind creates formulas and spread sheets to keep it all organized. As much as I knew about him, there were a lot of things I was about to learn. I learned that he is awesome at loving me as Christ loves the church. I tend to be a little bratty and don't like to admit when I'm wrong. When we do have arguments, this can make them difficult to resolve. Time and time and time again, he's stepped up, swallowed his pride and shown me love and grace to bring peace back into our home. He sincerely puts me first. And Ladies, don't be jealous, but my man helps me keep the house clean, do laundry and helps keep this place (somewhat) organized. AND he doesn't do it because I ask him to or because he's trying to make me feel bad. He just helps, no strings attached. He treats me as a beloved bride that he enjoys doing things with and for. I never doubt his love. I learned that he is an incredible family man and father. I could not ask for a better daddy for our boys. He invests in them whole-heartedly and comes home with a fresh burst of energy to get us through the night when I'm all "played out." He gives them a great example of how to treat a woman and leads our family through his example and words. He makes work a priority, but he never puts it before us. I never knew how much I wanted a family man until I found out I married one. I learned that I got a much better man than I thought I did back in 2005. I knew I had done well, but I did much better than that! I am so grateful to be married to someone that I still count down the minutes until he gets home from work. Someone that I can's sleep well without on the rare occasion that he's out of town. Someone who still gives me goosebumps all over when he kisses me soft and slow. I love you, Matthew Steven Miller and I am so glad I get to spend the rest of my life with you!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays and Merry X-mas!

If you read my last post on Christmas traditions, then you know that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Christmas! So I've been thinking about a couple of popular Christian topics around this time of year and thought I would share some thoughts on the issues and maybe offer a little bit of a history lesson. Our pastor is one of the best preachers I've ever sat under and it seems like he's always got an aside in his sermon that is more profound that many pastors' main points. Seriously. He's that good. Anyway, a couple years ago he made a comment about all the commotion that's been raised in the recent past about being politically correct around Christmastime. "Merry Christmas" has turned into "Happy Holidays" with a lot of businesses and on Greeting Cards and in songs so as not to offend those who don't celebrate Christmas and to encompass those who celebrate other religious holidays. I'm very used to hearing Christians grumble about this and take offense, but he didn't. In fact, he said something along the lines of, "The world isn't celebrating Christmas anyway, so why would we get mad about it? The focus on commercialism and Santa has nothing to do with the incarantion of Christ, so it really doesn't need to be called Christmas." (This is a major paraphrase people.... he's much more eloquent and I should have written it down when it said it, but I didn't.) At first it was so contrary to what I was used to hearing that I didn't absorb it right away. As I thought about it though, I became more convinced that what he said was right. Why do we (Christians) get so caught up in expecting the world to act like Christians? Why would we expect people who don't love Jesus to feel attached to the word "Christmas" and feel compelled to call what they celebrate "Christmas"? Even if they do call it "Christmas", if Christ is not involved in their celebration, then that's not really what it is they're celebrating. It's merely a pagan celebration involving fun and good will towards others, but there's nothing sacred about it. In fact, one may be able to go so far as to say that embracing what the world calls "Christmas" in many ways defames the name of Christ. His name is part of something that often has nothing to do with him. So, I've resolved that when someone tells me "Happy Holidays," I'll respond with "Merry Christmas" but I won't get mad. I'll pray that someday their vain-attempt-to-bring-true-happiness "holiday" will turn into a blessed-celebration-of -the-Word-made-flesh "Christmas." Which leads me to another hot topic. The supposed removal of Christ's name from the word Christmas, found penned as "Xmas," often gets Christians up in arms. Here's a bit of history that you might find interesting. As a child I had always heard that "Xmas" was a non-Christian's way of taking Christ's name out of Christmas. One day my Grandpa Cooper (who was a bit of a history buff) told me that "Xmas" wasn't bad and that the "X" actually stood for Christ. I found it interesting enough that I never forgot it; however, I never heard support of this statement growing up, so I became skeptical over time and assumed he must have been wrong. As a Greek student at Moody, we talked briefly about the issue and how the Greek letters "Chi" and "Rho" ("X" and "P") became a popular abbreviation for Christ because they were the first two letters in the word "Christos" or Christ. (Click the link to the article below to see pictures of how this looked) We talked about how sometimes just an "X" was used and thus the abbreviation "Xmas" came into being as a way to represent the word "Christmas" but we didn't talk about details of how that came to be. I decided to make a "tricky" Christmas quiz for our AWANA kids this year and added a question about this issue on it. I decided to do a little more research on it so that I would have clear answers if they asked any and found this explanation from Dennis Bratcher fascinating! ( Here's the part that was new to me:

In any case, by the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with movable type. In the early days of printing, typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation "X" for the word "Christ" to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From here, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and "Xmas" became an accepted way of printing "Christmas" (along with the abbreviation Xian and Xianity). Even Webster's dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviations "Xmas" was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.

So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not an modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season. Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church. It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the Church. In fact, as in other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation "Xmas" should be pronounced "Christmas" just as if the word were written out it full, rather than saying, "exmas." Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas season.

This is just the end of the article and the whole thing is really worth reading if you want a better (much better) explanation on the other stuff. All this is not to say that there are not some who use "Xmas" as a way to avoid the name of Christ, but I find it kind of funny that if that is their intention, they are unsuccessful. :)
I especially like what Bratcher says at the end of his article and thought his encouragement to focus on more important issues of the faith during Advent were dead on. So here's to keeping the focus on Christ and not "issues."